For the entrepreneur getting the first client is one of the most challenging hurdles and milestones to overcome. And yet, sometimes, for whatever reason, we self-sabotage ourselves by allowing opportunities to fend on their own instead of seizing the moment. Other times we take opportunities for granted out of an aversion for preparation. But, as the adage goes Failing to plan is planning to fail. We know we should respond to that email. We know we should follow-up with that person we connected with at that fancy networking event. But we don’t. We put it off. And in doing so, we put off people, profits, and progress.
In the world of business, a delayed response is like an absent one. Don’t make the same mistakes we made in our past.
- Often we get excited about a new connection but fail to maintain that energy throughout all stages of our relationship acquisition. If you start off engaging a person on a high note and are slow to respond to the critical follow-up, you risk coming off as disingenuous and/or uninterested.
- In one swift moment, you lose the trust of your client or relationship, as well as the future Plus Ones they can bring to your business.
- Your business reflects who you are. If returning an email is a challenge, you likely don’t have the systems and processes in place to manage your day-to-day activities. You must redirect your attention to ensuring you can keep up with the pace of your business or confront the consequences that come with stagnation.
For these reasons and more it’s ultimately necessary that you respond timely. Forty-eight hours from when you receive an inquiry, by phone or email, may be a challenge but it should be your goal. Not only will you delight your potential and current customers, but you’ll develop a habit that will leave a lasting impression. Never underestimate the opportunities you missed (including the ones you were never aware of) because you delayed action.
So, why is the urge to put off so common?
It turns out, our mind loves procrastination
Don’t just believe us, believe science. Psychologists have determined there are two general forms of procrastination; time-bound activities and those with no due date. The day-to-day operations of the entrepreneur fit in the first category, while our “big picture” goals for our business lay dormant in the second. We can see this in real-world application. Deadlines, while helpful, are no guarantee that we will complete the task and we soon realize that cram jams don’t end after college. As for our dreams, ambitions, and goals, without any direction we can hold ourselves accountable to, they are destined to be nothing more than abstract sensibilities.
Napoleon Hill and others have already warned us that “faith without action is dead.” And that only SMART goals are likely to be realized.
The first step in conquering your procrastination is identifying where yours stems from. The following are common reasons:
- Fear of failure
- Fear to succeed
- Lack of motivation (a topic in and of itself)
- The path of least resistance
- Opportunity cost
- The inertia of starting
From our experience, we’ve found the bottom three to be most prevalent among entrepreneurs. Let’s take a closer look, one by one.
“The path of least resistance makes all rivers, and some men, crooked.” The quote made famous by Napoleon Hill commonly afflicts the aspiring business owner by creating the illusion of busy work. When a task seems too daunting we may be tempted to retreat in work that can be executed easily. This appears in the form of least-important tasks, small in size or importance, that aren’t aligned with our over-arching goal. Not coincidentally, breaking up a big task into manageable pieces is a great idea.
Opportunity Cost can be too great to ignore. Our minds tend to gravitate towards what will offer more utility (economist jargon for joy) so we skip out on drafting a lean business model canvas for our vegan soul food truck concept and watch the next season of Narcos: Mexico instead. It’s helpful to think about the big reward that awaits us if we can only suspend superficial pleasure for a moment.
We try and fight the inertia of starting and we lose. If you don’t know how or where to begin you might never reach your destination. In most cases, we can overcome this challenge with solid preparation and compartmentalizing the task before us into digestible, prioritized goals. Other times our minds and body just require movement for movement’s sake. And this action can help kickstart the act of doing.
As we tame our procrastination we begin to appreciate how we spend our time affects how we feel about ourselves in the long-term. We see the positive relationship between getting things done with a sense of urgency to the success of our business. Just like Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours Rule, our 48 Hour Rule doesn’t necessarily need to be taken literally (and shouldn’t) in most cases. Rather, use its essence as a benchmark from which to run your enterprise.
It’s important to remind yourself that you are not an especially flawed human being because you can’t seem to get things done. In fact, you should find respite in knowing the condition of putting off things affects us all and spares no one. And perfectly explains why it took me several months to finish this article.